Bewildering Stories

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Reality TV Bites

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Mr. Ming was admiring the view out of his office on the 85th floor of the Tokoyama building. He could see straight into the office of Hirohito Makamoto on the corresponding floor in the building across the street, less than twenty meters away. It was a Zen thing. Nothing outside actually looked admirable. But it was either that, or the computer screen.

In an hour or so, Mr. Ming would turn back to the computer screen, it having become more desirable to watch. As he turned, one of the younger employees stormed into his office, an amoral gentleman by the name of Feuerstein.

“Mr. Ming! I have a idea!”

“Go back and have it approved by the board. I’m busy.” Said Mr. Ming, and prepared to sit down and be bored in peace for the rest of the day.

“Already done, sir. They saw it my way, and approved.” Feuerstein sat down, and threw some papers on the desk. After five hundred years of digital information, the bureaucracy still demanded paper. Sometimes diskettes, too. Probably to play frisbee with while reading the papers.

Mr. Ming picked the papers up and glanced over them. A grin crept over his face. It actually looked marketable, for once.

“I like the idea. Its not original, but I don’t think its been done before. The cost?”

“Right there on the last page.” Said Mr. Feuerstein.

“150 million. Nice. And cheap too. Set it up. I’ll call some sponsors.”

The Coprolite TV network was entirely run on commercials. Anyone who had a set could see it, so it was of utmost importance to have programming the people wanted to see to keep the cash flowing in from attention-hungry companies. Like the stations motto stated: “If they don’t know it exists, they don’t want it.”

Mr. Ming was not only the boss of the Coprolite TV network, but also a major stockholder. And he knew the audience was just sitting around, flipping through the channels, or worse; playing video games. The advertisers knew that too, unfortunately, resulting in a slowly deteriorating flow of revenue.

But this new show would change all that. It would appeal to all the people, from the romantic to the morbidly competitive. Versions could be edited to play during prime time, as well as during the after-hours and night. One show to fit almost all tastes. Perfect TV.

They held a world wide audition, and hundreds of thousands of people showed up, some tempted by the money, others were in it for the limelight. The rules were simple and clearly stated, but only few turned back upon seeing them. Fame and riches lured.

Only 21 were chosen. A single man and 20 women. A staff was carefully chosen, by meticulously modelled psychological means, to get exactly the right people for the job.

The show was a great hit once it aired. When it had run its course in the four months time, they just edited it again for a different effect, and aired it in a slightly more obscure hour of day. It became an even greater hit, but now with a different denomination.

What was it about? Based on some old decadent TV shows, but with a twist. First version, for the women: An unmarried man was locked in a large castle on an uninhabited island in the Pacific with the 20 women and ghost-staff. He would, over a period of a month, get know them better, and then he would spend a month selecting a bride from the group. She married the man.

Second version, for evening showing for lovers and voyeurs: For a month, fornication ensued. Cameras were everywhere, transmitting nudity for everyone.

Third version, for horror fans: When the food ran out; The women were selected by the man to be killed, one by one, the most boring and ugly ones first, then cooked by the staff and eaten by the contestants until only one was left.

The fourth edition aired last, constituting a successful cooking show.

Copyright © 2003 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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